The best example I can think of is that done by Ron Bensimhon on behalf of the
GoldenPalace.com online casino. The story can be found in the book Contagious by Jonah Berger. I highly recommend the book, which you can get
here. Below is an excerpt:
On August 16, 2004, Canadian Ron Bensimhon carefully shed his warm-up pants and stepped to the edge of the three-meter springboard. He had attempted dives from this height many times before, but never during an event of this magnitude. It was the Athens Olympics.
The world’s biggest stage for sport and the pinnacle of athletic competition. But Ron did not seem fazed. He shook off the jitters and raised his hands high above his head. As the crowd roared, he leapt off the end of the board and completed a full belly flop. A belly flop? In the Olympics? Surely Ron must have been devastated. But as he emerged from the water he seemed calm, happy even.
He swam around for a few moments, hamming it up for the audience and then slowly swam to the side of the pool, where he was met by a platoon of Olympic officials and security guards. Ron had broken into the Olympics. He wasn’t actually on the Canadian swim team. In fact, he wasn’t an Olympic athlete at all. He was the self-proclaimed most famous streaker in the world, and he had crashed the Olympics as part of a publicity stunt.
When Ron jumped off the springboard, he wasn’t naked, but he wasn’t wearing swim trunks either. He wore a blue tutu and white polka dot tights. And emblazoned across his chest was the name of an Internet casino, GoldenPalace.com
Ron Bensimhon: "The fool in the pool" (image credit:
Millions of people were watching, and the story got picked up by news outlets around the world. It also got a huge amount of word-of-mouth chatter. Someone crashing the Olympics and diving into a pool in a tutu? What a story. Pretty remarkable.
The stunt had nothing to do with the product it was trying to promote. Yes, people talked about the stunt, but they didn’t talk about the casino. Polka dot tights, tutus, and breaking into the Olympics to dive into a pool are all great story material. That’s why people talked about them. So if the goal was to get people to think more about security at the Olympics or get attention for a new style of tights, the stunt succeeded. But it had nothing to do with casinos. Not even in the slightest.
While it was certainly daring, it was probably the biggest guerrilla marketing failure of all time!